Computing infrastructure is an ever-changing landscape of technology advancements. Current changes affect the way companies deploy smart manufacturing systems to make the most of advancements.
The rise of edge computing capabilities coupled with traditional industrial control system (ICS) architectures provides increasing levels of flexibility. In addition, time-synchronized applications and analytics augment, or in some cases minimize, the need for larger Big Data operations in the cloud, regardless of cloud premise.
In this blog, we will start with the definition of edge computing. After that, we will discuss the need of edge computing and it’s applications. Also, we will try to understand the scope of edge computing in the future.
What is Edge computing
Consolidation and the centralized nature of cloud computing have proven cost-effective and flexible, but the rise of the IIoT and mobile computing has put a strain on networking bandwidth. Ultimately, not all smart devices need to use cloud computing to operate. In some cases, architects can — and should — avoid the back and forth. Edge computing could prove more efficient in some areas where cloud computing operates.
Furthermore, edge computing permits data processing closer to it’s origin (i.e., motors, pumps, generators or other sensors), reducing the need to transfer that data back and forth between the cloud.
Additionally, think of edge computing in manufacturing as a network of micro data centers capable of hosting, storage, computing and analysis on a localized basis while pushing aggregate data to a centralized plant or enterprise data center, or even the cloud (private or public, on-premise or off) for further analysis, deeper learning, or to feed an artificial intelligence (AI) engine hosted elsewhere.
According to Microsoft, in edge computing, compute resources are “placed closer to information-generation sources to reduce network latency and bandwidth usage generally associated with cloud computing.” This helps to ensure continuity of services and operations even if cloud connections aren’t steady.
Also, this moving of compute and storage to the “edge” of the network, away from the data centre and closer to the user, cuts down the amount of time it takes to exchange messages compared with traditional centralized cloud computing. Moreover, according to research by IEEE, it can help to balance network traffic, extend the life of IoT devices and, ultimately, reduce “response times for real-time IoT applications.”
Terms in Edge Computing
Like most technology areas, edge computing has its own lexicon. Here are brief definitions of some of the more commonly used terms
- Edge devices: These can be any device that produces data. These could be sensors, industrial machines or other devices that produce or collect data.
- Edge: What the edge depends on the use case. In a telecommunications field, perhaps the edge is a cell phone or maybe it’s a cell tower. Furthermore, in an automotive scenario, the edge of the network could be a car. Also, in manufacturing, it could be a machine on a shop floor. Additionally, in enterprise IT, the edge could be a laptop.
- Edge gateway: A gateway is a buffer between where edge computing processing is done and the broader fog network. The gateway is the window into the larger environment beyond the edge of the network.
- Fat client: Software that can do some data processing in edge devices. This is opposite to a thin client, which would merely transfer data.
- Edge computing equipment: Edge computing uses a range of existing and new equipment. We can outfit many devices, sensors and machines to work in an edge computing environment by simply making them Internet-accessible. Cisco and other hardware vendors have a line of rugged network equipment that has hardened exteriors meant to be used in field environments. A range of compute servers and even storage-based hardware systems like Amazon Web Service’s Snowball have usage in edge computing deployments.
- Mobile edge computing: This refers to the buildout of edge computing systems in telecommunications systems, particularly 5G scenarios
Why Rise in Edge Computing
1. Latency in decision making
Businesses are getting a huge boost from computerised systems, especially as they evolve into the cloud era. But bringing that same level of technology across different sites has proven to be not so straightforward for many companies, particularly as the sites started generating more data. The main concern is latency, that being the time it takes for data to move between points. As with the NYSE, a little distance goes a long way in the computer world, so it stands to reason that delays in sending data needed to reach decisions will translate into delays for the business.
2. Decentralisation and scaling
To some, it may seem counterintuitive to move away from the centre. Wasn’t centralisation the whole point of cloud systems? But the cloud isn’t about pooling everything in the middle. It’s about scale and making it easier to access the services that the business uses every day. Also, the transfer gap problem between sites and data centres predates the cloud era. Yet cloud can exacerbate it. The only way to overcome this transfer gap is to move some of the data centres to where the data is.
3. Process Optimisation
With edge computing, data centres can execute rules that are time sensitive (like “stop the car” in case of driverless vehicles), and then stream data to the cloud in batches when bandwidth needs aren’t as high. Furthermore,the cloud can then take the time to analyze data from the edge, and send back recommended rule changes — like “decelerate slowly when the car senses human activity within 50 feet.”
Cost is also a driving factor for edge computing. The bulk of telemetry data that is from the sensors and actuators is likely not relevant for the IoT application. The fact a temperature sensor reports a 20ºC reading every second might not be interesting until the sensor reports a 40ºC reading. Edge computing allows for the filtering and processing of data before sending it to the cloud. This reduces the network cost of data transmission. It also reduces the cloud storage and processing cost of data that is not relevant to the application.
Storing and processing data on the edge and only sending out to the cloud what will be used and useful saves bandwidth and server space.
Where all we are using it
1. Grid Edge Control and Analytics
Grid Edge computing solutions are helping the utility monitor and analyse these additional renewable power generating resources integrated into their grid, in real time. This is something legacy SCADA systems are unable to offer.
From residential rooftop solar to solar farms, commercial solar, electric vehicles and wind farms, smart meters are generating a ton of data that helps utilities to view the amount of energy available and required, allowing their demand response to become more efficient, avoid peaks and reduce costs. This data is first processed in the Grid Edge Controllers that perform local computation and analysis of the data only send necessary actionable information over a wireless network to the Utility.
2. Oil and Gas Remote Monitoring
Safety monitoring within critical infrastructures such as oil and gas utilities is of utmost importance. For this reason, many cutting edge IoT monitoring devices are being deployed in order to safeguard against disaster. Edge computing allows data to be analysed, processed, and then delivered to end-users in real-time, allowing for control centres to access data as it occurs in order to foresee and prevent malfunctions or incidents before they occur. This is really important. As, when dealing with critical infrastructures such as oil and gas or other energy services, any failures within a particular system have the potential to be catastrophic and should always warrant the highest levels of precaution.
3. Internet of Things
A smart window firm monitors windows for errors, weather information, maintenance needs and performance. This generates a massive stream of data as each device is regularly reporting information. Edge services filter this information and report a summary back to a centralized service that is running from the firm’s primary data centres. By summarizing information before reporting it, global bandwidth consumption is reduced by 99%.
An e-commerce company delivers images and static web content from a content delivery network. They also perform processing at edge data centres to quickly calculate product recommendations for customers.
A hedge fund pays an expensive premium for servers that are in close proximity to various stock exchanges to achieve extremely low latency trading. Trading algorithms are deployed on these machines. These servers are expensive and resource constrained. As such, they connect back to a cloud service for processing support.
A game platform executes certain real-time elements of the game experience on edge servers near the user. The edges connect to a cloud backend for support processing. The backend is run from three regions that need not be close to the end-user.
Predictions for Edge Computing in Future
According to IDC by 2020, the IT spend on edge infrastructure will reach up to 18% of the total spend on IoT infrastructure. That spend is driven by the deployment of converged IT and OT systems which reduces the time to value of data collected from their connected devices IDC adds. It’s what we explained and illustrated in a nutshell.
According to a November 1, 2017, announcement regarding research of the edge computing market across hardware, platforms, solutions and applications (smart city, augmented reality, analytics etc.) the global edge computing market is expected to reach USD 6.72 billion by 2022 at a compound annual growth rate of a whopping 35.4 per cent.
The major trends responsible for the growth of the market in North America are all too familiar. Also, there is a growing number of devices and dependency on IoT devices. Hence, the need for faster processing, the increase in cloud adoption, and the increase in pressure on networks.
In an October 2018 blog post, Gartner’s Rob van der Meulen said that currently, around 10% of enterprise-generated data is created and processed outside a traditional centralized data centre or cloud. By 2022, Gartner predicts this figure will reach 50 per cent.
Edge is still in early stage adoption, but one thing is clear: Edge devices are subject to large-scale investments from cloud suppliers to offload bandwidth. Also, there are latency issues due to an explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) data in both industrial and commercial applications.
Edge soon will likely increase in adoption where users have questions about how or if the cloud applies for the specific use case. Cloud-level interfaces and apps will migrate to the edge. Industrial application hosting and analytics will become common at the edge, using virtual servers and simplified operational technology-friendly hardware and software.
Benefits in network simplification, security and bandwidth accompany the IT simplification.
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